Gay sex in the afterlife meets John Lennon utopia in this fantastical pulp novel. Murder, vengeful ghosts and tongue-in-cheek religious commentary are thrown in for good measure. As a literary artifact it offers a delightfully campy lens into the fantasies and fears of queer existence during the early 1970s.
The novel opens with Reggie Poppov waking up in the “Gay Wing of Purgatory.” He’s disoriented and wearing a big poofy wedding dress. Leaning over him is a “half nude angel” whose rippling physique makes him “more handsome” than Michelangelo’s David. The angel asks what happened to him. Reggie gradually recalls that he had dressed in wedding drag so he could legally marry his boyfriend, Bob. While posing for pictures on the Golden Gate Bridge, however, Bob pushed him over the edge so he could inherit Reggie’s family fortune.
Read more “Billy Farout – Man, It Must Be Heaven (1972)”
There’s a lot of ball juggling in this book, if you catch my drift. The “plot” consists almost entirely of bedroom scenes. There are, however, fleeting moments of macabre clown imagery to jazz up the D-grade erotica.
The opening image is red, green and blue strobes from car headlights passing the stained-glass window of a Victorian mansion. Mark, a clown accountant, has set up a compound in the mansion for his wildly successful troupe, Bring in the Clowns. Their financial success proves there’s a special synergy among the clowns. As we soon discover, it likely has to do with their limitless dedication to customer service. The juxtaposition of jolly clowns living in a creaky old mansion is really quite sublime.
Read more “Ed Kroch – Bring in the Clowns (1990)”
Remember 1996? Let me help. “Macarena” is Billboard’s #1 song the past fourteen weeks, Space Jam is box office gold and Nanook, the Siberian husky Beanie Baby, is born. Meanwhile, Goosebumps is everywhere. The TV series is in its second season and the books are only halfway through an eventual 62-title run. If you’re reading each book as it comes out, you just finished The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena and are eagerly awaiting How I Got My Shrunken Head. You are unaware, of course, that future classics like Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns and Calling All Creeps are already in the pipeline.
One day your mom buys a specially marked bag of Doritos. You find inside a teeny tiny Goosebumps book, individually wrapped so it doesn’t get covered in orange dust. You read the short story, love it, and discover that TWO more teeny stories can be obtained if you submit enough UPC codes. To sweeten the deal, the promotion includes a cardboard “library” for “shelving” your books.
Ring any bells?
Read more “R.L. Stine – Goosebumps Haunted Library (1996)”
It doesn’t get any more 1969 than Adonis. This novel is as trippy as an extended foot and more surreal than Salvador Dali’s wet dreams. Though billed as “adult only” gay entertainment, much of the sex oozes with a slime of horror and supernatural mystery. You don’t know whether to be repulsed, turned on or terrified. Perhaps it’s the combination of all three which make it so unique.
Back in the day Adonis was popular enough to warrant two sequels. Today it’s an extremely rare find that might cost three figures for a tattered used copy.
California Scene, one of the more literary-minded gay presses, reviewed the novel in their May 1971 issue. They described it as “quite an exciting detective story” and praised Lambert’s “great skill in handling” a “number of good ideas.” In the same breath, however, there was concern that the “extremely involved” plot was peopled with “too many characters” and consequently difficult to follow.
Read more “William J. Lambert, III – Adonis Trilogy (1969-1970)”
This 1969 gay pulp novel got labeled as “Adult Only” entertainment when it was published, but it’s much more about true love than naughty exploits.
Steve Saville is the “head of computer division” for a big corporation. He’s 34, lonely, socially awkward, self-conscious, and carries baggage from painful past relationships. Thinking that he’s not meant for happiness, he is just confident enough to dance with attractive Ben “Bunny” Farrow at a party only because he’s rumored to be a hustler.
Read more “Julian Francis – Bunny Bitch (1969)”
Circa 1972, this western-themed pulp delivers all the gay cowboy imagery a boy could want, but also explores intriguing literary topics such as the disconnect between external and internal masculinity, the basic human need for love, and what amounts to a critique of polyamory.
Set in Sacramento Valley during the 1849 gold rush, we learn that Holt Dykes is on the run. He’s a blue-eyed desperado who’s more sensitive than his rough exterior reveals. He’s thirsty, dirty, and trying to outpace the man who wants him dead.
Read more “Frederick Raborg – Gay Vigilante (1972)”
This rare 1977 horror novel occasionally pops up in academic discussions around gay representation in literature. Drewey Wayne Gunn, a leading academic on such topics, describes The Slasher as a “credible attempt to explain a killer’s mentality” and praises its “touching portrait of a relationship between two police officers and their friendship with the medical examiner.” He goes on to lament that the author’s actual identity remains a mystery, since Sebastian Lamb, like most headliners of pulp fiction, is a pseudonym.
Gunn’s praise is generous, but he’s not wrong. If you glaze over the overindulgent sex and generally poor writing, it’s possible to enjoy a story of semi-closeted detectives attempting to bring a killer to justice. Both victims and murderer are also gay, making this a story 100% by, for, and about gay men. A few lines of social commentary imply these grisly murders might go unchecked if the detectives were straight. The media, at least, aren’t interested in reporting on “faggot deaths” until one of the victims turns out to be a young, emerging actor.
Read more “Sebastian Lamb – The Slasher (1977)”
If you’ve ever checked out Pennywise and thought “I’d hit that,” you might be like Terry Adams, the nineteen year-old farm boy from St. Paul and newest recruit at the Gay Circus.
Terry’s life ambition is to become a clown himself. With his big ears “like sugar bowl handles” and theatrical eyes that spontaneously “alternate between happiness and sadness,” it’s like he was made for it. Everyone says he has the face of a clown, “even without makeup.” Being double-jointed is just the cream pie on top.
Read more “Kym Allyson – Gay Circus (1970)”
“Going to Hell” has always been a part of my existence. I’ve been told it constantly. From the pulpit, from family, from strangers on the street. I suspect every religious gay person decides at some point to either embrace their inevitable damnation, or believe that organized religion is a lie. Friends and allies are forced into a similar conundrum, fearing their soul will turn to salt should they dare sympathize with such “deviants.”
But I was born in 1989 and have it lucky. In 1970, when Demon’s Stalk was published, you didn’t just have the church to worry about. You could be sent to jail. You were thought to suffer from a “mental disorder.” You were an assumed pedophile. You were beaten—maybe killed—in the street. Rarely would anyone care. They saw your death as a public service. It wasn’t just God against you, it was everyone.
It’s within this historical context that I read Demon’s Stalk in awe. It remains edgy and unnerving these fifty years later, arguably deserving of classic status within the horror genre, but also revolutionary for its handling of queer characters within a religious storyline. Which is to say that none of these things matter.
Read more “William J. Lambert, III – Demon’s Stalk (1970) + Interview”
A rare title sought highly by horror lovers. Most copies are listed for $100+. Its notoriety, it seems, can be sourced to an active cult fandom and Grady Hendrix’s sweeping praise.
In Paperbacks From Hell, which chronicles the publishing history of horror literature during the 1970s and 80s, Hendrix lists this book as a standout among the “creepy kids” subgenre. He goes on to say that it’s one of the few books to ever make his “jaw drop.”
Read more “Brenda Brown Canary – The Voice of the Clown (1982)”